| Sunday Salutes
Week 17 Bumps, Bruises and Bow-outs
QB Marc Bulger - Bruised forearm
QB Rex Grossman - Injured right hand
RB Brian Westbrook - Torn Triceps muscle
RB Najeh Davenport - Strained neck
We be Jammin'
Jamal Lewis came within 39 yards of breaking the all-time
single season rushing record of Eric "Whew" Dickerson
when he ended with 114 yards on 27 carries against the Steelers.
Lewis now holds the second all-time mark with 2066 yards rushing
in one season and he missed it by less than the width of a
football field. Notable too is that he comes off the best
season ever for a running back that had blown his knee out
only two years ago.
He woke from his coma, read the paper, and now he's gone
Trying to keep up with the ever-changing NFL is a study in
dynamics of what happens when Big Business meets orchestrated
riots with a bit of Chaos Theory thrown in. Let's consider
a few of many tidbits that signify getting comfortable in
the NFL just never happens.
The Bills open the season by throttling the Patriots 31-0.
In week 17, the two teams met again but the Patriots were
on the heels of an eleven game win streak and the Bills were
only 6-9 on the year. By the time the Patriots were finished,
they had exactly reversed the 31-0 drubbing that started their
season. Proof positive that it only matters where you end
At the end of the 2002 regular season, there were eight divisional
winners but of those, only two (Philadelphia and Green Bay)
won their division again. Green Bay needed an improbable loss
by the Vikings to Arizona to get back. Of the twelve teams
that went to the playoffs last season, eight of them did not
return to the post season this year.
The Buccaneers come off a Superbowl in 2002 with the greatest
defense of the decade. They still ended as the 4th best defense
in allowing points, but were only 18th best in scoring points
and ended with a losing record for 2003 of 7-9. By the end
of the season, the only players of note left from those that
started were Keenan McCardell and Brad Johnson who "tailed
off badly" at the end. They replaced Pittman with Thomas
Jones and dumped Keyshawn mid-season.
The Raiders came in this year as the AFC Champs for 2002.
They had to draft 31st in April as the second best record
and in 2004 they again will be only one spot from the turn
except this time they are the second worst team in the NFL.
Those Raiders were the best passing team in the league last
season. They ended this year with a total of 35 yards passing
in week 17.
At the end of last year, we were talking about hot players
like Marc Boerigter, Michael Vick, Donald Driver, Peerless
Price and many more. Would Priest Holmes ever play again?
Would the Raiders encourage all teams to just throw every
The running back was becoming a hot property after last season
because there were not enough to go around. This season saw
18 break the 1000 yards rushing mark and 26 of them gain over
1000 yards in total yardage. After last season made the pass
look like the thing to do, we had a runner score 27 touchdowns
and another one rush for 2064 yards. Six of the tailbacks
ran for over 1500 yards and one was Fred Taylor in an odd-numbered
The receivers were plenty after last season and there were
so many that did well we all knew we could wait in our drafts
and still get quality like David Boston, Donte' Stallworth,
Marty Booker or Rod Gardner. Week 17 of this season was the
final peg in the receiver coffin - only Donte' Stallworth,
Marcus Robinson and Chris Chambers turned in 100+ yards in
their season finale. Stallworth had been gone most the year
and faced the #1 defense, Robinson was not even drafted and
Chambers teased with only one big week this year.
This was destined to be the first year ever without a rookie
running back of note. No one sent that memo to Domanick Davis
who spent most of the summer injured. Everyone knew Thomas
Jones was a bust and that Brian Westbrook was too small to
do much. Rudi Johnson was just a name behind Brandon Bennett.
With guys like Amos Zereoue, Trung Canidate or Charlie Garner
around - why would we care?
Not to worry - some speculate this will be one of the biggest
off-seasons for swapping head coaches and assistant staffs
so even more will be changing next season. Add in a new draft
class, some salary cap purges and it'll all start over next
Marshall Faulk's single season touchdown record finally died
of natural causes with a two touchdown service by Priest Holmes
on Sunday. Not bad for a guy that was compared to Bo Jackson
this time last season.
IKU elects new chief
The brotherhood of the Idiot Kickers Union has elected Mike
Vanderjagt as their new President after he kicked his NFL
record 41st consecutive field goal to beat the Texans and
give the Colts the AFC South title. Should he not be able
to fill his duties due to embarrassing remarks on Canadian
radio shows, the Vice President Jeff Wilkins will gladly stand
Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry
| Comedy Lineup
|| Tragedy Lineup
|| 3 FG, 3 XP
Huddle Fantasy Points = 106
Huddle Fantasy Points = 22
Just to whet your 2004 whistle
Picture this - in your 2004 draft you have the first overall
pick. Who do you choose?
LaDainian Tomlinson who comes off a 2370 yard, 17 touchdown
effort on a team that did little to help him?
Clinton Portis who had 14 touchdowns and 1905 yards on a
team that will probably be better next season, knowing that
he can score on any play?
Priest Holmes who has scored over 50 touchdowns in the past
Jamal Lewis that just set the second greatest rushing season
in NFL history?
Ahman Green who 20 touchdowns and 2250 yards this season?
After you throw in Shaun Alexander (16 TDs), Deuce McAllister
(2157 yards), maybe Ricky Williams, Fred Taylor and Edgerrin
James, I can only offer you two words of advice - "trade
Sunday's Couch Commentary
0, NE 31
winning 31-0 in Buffalo, the Bills end with a 0-31 spanking
that completes the circle. Gregg Williams will get the
axe for having too many "G"'s in his name and
not enough "W"s in the standings, Bledsoe adopts
a "maybe they will not see me standing over here"
stance while the Patriots are on a roll that looks frighteningly
like it may require the schedule for 2004 to see where
their next loss may be.
|SEA 24, SF 17
||The worst road team meets the best
home team so only naturally the road team wins. They use
Koren "WHY NOW?" Robinson while Kevan "WHY
NOW?" Barlow sprains an ankle and the 49ers look
like a team without Terrell Owens that evidently they
need to get used to being anyway. Seahawks advance to
the playoffs thanks to the stars falling their way while
the 49ers finally unwrapped their long passing game after
15 games of anticipation. Maybe that free agent guy Owens
should come in for a workout.
31, WAS 7
end the season with a homefield gift from the Rams and
lose Westbrook in the process. Eagles have lost Vincent
and Emmons and Westbrook. They cannot stop the run. But
fortunately they will not be hosting any dynasties in
January so you just never know. The Redskins end without
a quarterback or a running back, but with the same coach
that will be back next season, or in Miami, or on the
golf course. Flip a coin.
|CLE 22, CIN 14
BUT WE BELIEVED! WE BELIEVED! It's like Lucy holding
that damn football asking us to kick it. It's like saying
there really is no Sant... hmmm.. and to think the Easter
Bunny will not have a great draft pick this year either...
14, ATL 21
see if we have this straight. The Jaguars finally have
Fred Taylor playing the role of a 16 game running back
who ends 6th in rushing yards, Smith is back and Kevin
Johnson is there. Defense is better. But still cannot
win on the road. The Falcons, on the other hand, started
okay, then sucked, then really, really sucked, seemed
to be getting better then became catastrophically sucky,
axed the coach that got them to a Super Bowl, then got
much better, then much worse and by now I am swearing
to sort this all out next July.
|TB 13, TEN 33
||The end does not come with a bang
or a whimper, but with Brad Johnson throwing seven interceptions
in the last two games and handing off the Shaun King who
hands it off to Thomas Jones but cannot throw to Keyshawn
Johnson who joins Warren Sapp on the market next year.
I mean Gruden does not even seem mad anymore. The Titans
win with Neil O'Donnell and Eddie George will return next
year because no one wants to be the one to tell him he
was cut a few seasons ago and besides, it would take him
forever to walk the box with his stuff all the way to
7, NO 13
#1 offense appears to be matched with the #32 rushing
game but at least has the #1 turnover machine at quarterback.
The Tuna defense cannot handle the Saints when Horn is
gone and McAllister is banged up. The Tuna offense cannot
handle the Saints when their defense is composed of castoffs,
subs and a guy they found on Bourbon Street begging for
change to get back home. But hey - they are better so
do not get lost in the big picture here. Hambrick gets
to start his first - and only - playoff game.
|NYJ 21, MIA 23
||Curtis Martin ends the season by
scoring his second touchdown of the year and having a
big yardage game two weeks ago. This is like acing the
18th hole even though you are about 48 strokes over par.
Hmmm... maybe next time it will all be good! Yeah! My
sleeper! Mount Moss has already erupted, the lava has
cooled and the foliage is starting to grow again to cover
the event. The Fins end with Ricky having the most carries
in the NFL this season. Now about that whole "winning
to get to the playoffs thing". Maybe Spurrier will
3, KC 31
run through all three quarterbacks and yet Booker is starting
to look kinda good again. Dick Jauron makes a mental note
- when job is on the line, do NOT end up playing in KC.
Holmes not only takes the all-time single season TD record,
he also makes that little "grab Larry Johnson and
we'll feast like Kings" strategy look a little silly
four months later. Chiefs end season still searching under
the Christmas tree for a good defense on the road or wideouts
that appear more than every three weeks.
|IND 20, HOU 17
||Someone run and get Peyton - the
ride was not over in week 15! There is still more! Edgerrin
still looking good now that Jamal Lewis has removed the
"bad knee" excuse. Houston leaves 2003 with
a sense of hope and a promise of the future. If they add
a defense to that, they might do something next season.
Marvin Harrison started the season red-hot and
then he just
20, DET 30
Rams lose a greatly needed homefield advantage as evidenced
by this game. Bulger leaves Detroit with a VIN stamped
to his chest while the rest of his team spends the entire
flight home repeating "the lions, the freaking lions,
man". Steve Mariucci has gotten by with so little
for so long that he wraps up 2003 using nothing to beat
the Rams. "We beat the Rams", said Mariucci,
"I fail to recall playing in any other games this
|OAK 14, SD 21
||The Raiders suspend Garner before
the game, thereby saving him from the embarrassment of
playing in a game that featured only 35 yards passing
against the worst defense in the NFL. The Raiders change
their 2004 goal from "Commitment to Excellence"
to "heck, let's shoot for mediocrity" even though
such lofty heights seem unattainable. Tomlinson becomes
the Tiger Woods of the NFL - everyone else around him
are just caddies and he usually turns in the lowest score
card. . San Diego should carry him into the stadium with
throne bearers and then all stay on the sidelines so as
to not get in his way.
37, NYG 24
tool up for a bit of revenge next week against the Cowboys
against a NY Giant team that is now entirely made up of
substitutes since all the regulars were all in line to
see "Lord of the Rings". Fassel prepares to
hit the retread road while the over/under on week 17 starting
players that make week 1 of 2004 stands at about 7 players.
Season ends at the right time - Fassel has now ran out
of ways to avoid the word "sucks".
|DEN 3, GB 31
||This is what happens when you do
not use any of your normal starting lineups. Could have
just asked Fassel instead. Packers whack on the no-names
and Green sticks another 98 yards in his wallet on only
one play. Favre takes up where Manning left off.
10, BAL 13
Jamal Lewis ran past 2000 yards and ended up just short
of Eric Dickerson but the game only had one offensive
touchdown scored. Steelers get bonus points on degree
of difficulty and creativity for their fake punt touchdown
but we were all there to watch Jamal anyway. Steelers
slink back to Pittsburgh with Jerome Bettis still willing
to gain 3 yards a carry next year during the times he
is not hurt.
Winner: Minnesota 17, Arizona 18
There can be no greater symbol for this season than this
This is the posterchild of "Huh?" for 2003, a game
that featured the #32 defense going against the #1 offense.
The Vikings had everything on the line - win and they take
the division, lose and it's snowblowing the driveway in January
in a very bad mood.
The Vikings trailed 6-0 at the half even though Marcel Shipp
was banged up and Joshua McCown was the quarterback. The Vikings
managed to take a 17-6 lead with only 6:48 left to play. Change
the channel because this one is over. I mean it was close,
seemingly, but the Vikes woke up and will host the Seahawks
in a week.
Then Josh McCown completes a pass on fourth and six to Boldin
for a first down at midfield. A couple of sacks shrewdly mixed
with a defensive holding call and a big 37 yard pass to Nathan
Poole and with under three minutes the Cardinals are at the
MIN 11-yard line. After three plays, McCown runs to the right
after almost getting sacked and chucks the ball to Steve Bush
for a score. 12-17? Really?
Knowing that they can get a two point conversion to draw
within a field goal, the Cardinals naturally fail to convert
as Emmitt is splatted on the one yard line. Still 12-17.
With only 1:54 left to play, they try an onside kick. It
bounces off a Viking player before the Cardinals recover at
their own 39-yard line. On first down, McCown tries to throw
to Bryant Johnson but CB Denard Walker is called for pass
interference. With a minute and 46 seconds left, the Cardinals
are on the MIN 31-yard line.
Three passes later, they are on the MIN 9-yard line with
only 39 seconds left. McCown is sacked for an 8 yard loss.
On third down, he is sacked for a nine yard loss and fumbles
the ball which eventually is recovered at the MIN 28-yard
line. On fourth and 25 yards to go, from the 28-yard line
with only 4 seconds left to play, the Vikings come on a rush
and just miss McCown who then scrambles to his right. Just
before he is hit, he chunks the ball into the corner of the
endzone where Nathan Poole catches it and is forced out of
bounds - the call is a touchdown and replay does not overturn
Had the onside kick failed - it is over.
Had the pass interference call not happened - it is over.
Had any of the fourth down tries failed - it is over.
Had McCown not wriggled out of a sack on that final play -
it is over.
Had Denard Walker just turned around and seen the ball coming
in the endzone - it is over.
Had the defenders not hit Poole at all, he would have likely
come down out of bounds and - it is over.
Nope. Like a fated chain of events, everything fell into
place for the Cardinals as the Vikings fell out of first place
with perhaps their most sour loss ever.
It ended a regular season that showed there really is no
#1 offense or #32 defense. There is no way to just draw lines
and expect the outcomes to follow history. It is all about
the game and more than that, it is about every single play.
One thing leads to another and it only takes one bad link
to break the chain. It almost always ends up broken but there
is nothing that merits "always" in the NFL. Not
And like a chain, we come to the end of our season. The Tunnel
Vision will be ending this week though The Huddle will continue
on with playoff projections, predictions and assorted material.
Thanks for letting me share my reviews and rants this year
and let's all look forward to next season when we can draft
Tomlinson. I mean Jamal. No - maybe Priest. Or Ahman. Clinton?
Argh - be careful out there and enjoy the post-season and
then that long stretch I refer to as "not football".
I'll be back next season - hope you will too.
Now get back to work...